Smokers of flavored cigarettes change habit

Jaclyn Glover smokes clove cigarettes because they smell better, taste better and make her car smell like flowers. With a federal ban on the sweet-smelling cigarettes taking effect this fall, she went to tobacco stores and stocked up.

But once they are gone, Glover, 23, plans to quit smoking — which is exactly the intent of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s ban on clove-, fruit- and candy-flavored cigarettes.

In effect since Sept. 22, the ban’s aim is to reduce smoking, which kills 400,000 Americans annually and is the leading preventable cause of death. It is especially targeted at young people, since about 90 percent of adult smokers start as teenagers, and health officials regard sweet tobacco products as a young person’s gateway to nicotine addiction.

The ban — which includes manufacturing, shipping and sale of candy or sweet cigarettes — followed authority given to the FDA in June to regulate tobacco through the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act.

Though the FDA will not be able to ban tobacco, it is evaluating regulations for menthol products and other fruit-flavored tobacco products. Other regulations expected in the future include new warning labels and ingredient disclosure on tobacco products.

The fruit-flavored cigarette ban was the FDA’s first high-profile move, which was hailed by health advocates but criticized by smokers and business owners.

“Before now, tobacco was the only consumable product that wasn’t regulated,” said Brad Burk, director of federal government relations for the American Cancer Society, Great Lakes Division. “It’s going to go a long way in helping people to stop cigarette smoking.”

But Glover, who plans to quit smoking clove cigarettes when she has no more, doesn’t believe banning them is going to make people quit smoking.

“Some of my friends are turning to cigarettes,” said Glover, a Clarkston resident.

On the day before the ban began, many local tobacco retailers were keeping the products on their shelves to avoid losing the money they invested in inventory.

“We’re not going to throw them in the garbage,” said Syeed Monnan, owner of Hamtramck Smokers Inc. “That’s like throwing money away. I am sure people who smoke these are going to be upset. People should be able to smoke if they want to.”

Other retailers still had a few packs left for sale even after the ban went into effect, but as of last week, a spot check of tobacco shops showed most had only a few packs in store or no supply on hand.

The government is asking customers to report any retailers who continue to sell the fruit-flavored products.

But manufacturers of the clove cigarettes are trying to get around the law.

They have started using cigar papers, instead of cigarette papers, to lure customers.

“A lot of people who were buying the clove cigarettes are accepting the fact they are not going to be around,” said Elliott Arabo, owner of Smoky’s Fine Cigars in Royal Oak. “So they are shifting to cigars and chewing tobacco.”

Kim Kozlowski, The Detroit News, November 02. 2009

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